Puerto Princesa is the land of non-stop festivals, all of them with an
environmental flavor. It works. I've been going there since 1995 and I've
never seen a candy wrapper, bottle cap or cigarette butt on city streets.
When Mayor Edward Hagedorn won office in 1991 with an environmental
campaign, his opponents left him with P28,000 in the city coffers, expecting
he couldn't live up to campaign promises.. The Mayor still led a campaign to
clean the city - not with money but with household brooms. It worked. The
clever Mayor had the City's budget back in balance in a year, and Princesa
is clean and prosperous ever since.
Before Hagedorn, Princesa was just another Filipino town with a black water
harbor, denuded mountains and rampant illegal logging, mining and fishing.
By my 1995 visit, the city was already an environmental paradise. In the
past twelve years, the Pista U Ang Kageban (Festival of the Forest) planted
1.5 million trees. More important, pre-school kids become environmentalists
and University students give up their parties to develop environmental
Flying into Princesa, the borders are obvious. Brown, bare hills rule the
landscape outside the municipality. Then a straight line of thick solid
green jungle starts - the municipality border. Even from 20,000 feet,
mangroves dominate Ulagan Bay, and Honda Bay is pure blue.
On the social side, crime rate is zero and the town is drug free. There are
none of the homeless people and beggars who burden social and economic
progress across the Philippines and indigenous people - outcasts elsewhere -
are encouraged to continue their forest lifestyles and enjoy high social
The municipality of 200,000 hosts two nature-based World Heritage sites and
one in process. Nine kilometer St. Paul's Underground River is the World's
longest sea cave, and the limestone jungles outside the cave rival the cave.
St. Paul's jungle delivered my Palawan Peacock photos. Tabuttaha is a rare
World Heritage reef, and Ulagan Bay hosts 17% of all the mangroves in a
7,000 island nation.
Accommodations range from bungalows to 3-star hotels, and the place is
packed with quaint, inexpensive restaurants with excellent food, There's
even so night - m favorites is The Backyard, where funky a funky acoustical
guitarist delivers Dylan and Van Morrison to your individual bamboo and
coconut frond booth.
The Mayor encourages academic research, NGO inspections and environmentally
responsible, corruption-free economic development. I believe that cloning
the Puerto Princesa model worldwide develops a positive economic and
environmental influence, and encourage your personal visit to impressive
For all its environmental charms, Princesa's well organized, warm hearted
hospitality is the highlight of everybody's visit.